Grape + Blueberry Jam

All my grapes became ripe at the same time which made an easy decision to embark on a grape jam project.

I found lots of recipes for grape jelly but I wanted to include some of the texture that a whole grape can provide and not merely strain out the skins and pulp for the juice.

Always experimenting, I also had a half full container of 100% pure blueberry juice that I used for the Angel’s smoothies so they wouldn’t be refused because they were a yucky GREEN color. It perfectly masks the kale and spinach, teehee.

Every summer, my mom and I used to make pickles and jams and preserves, enough jewel-colored Mason jars to last until the following spring, but I haven’t done it in a while.

She was way more scientifically precise than I could ever hope to be as I never had her patience, but most of the time my creations taste pretty good.

It’s hot and humid, not the greatest weather to cook pots of boiling grapes, but once I started, I was committed to finishing this project.

I didn’t can them in a proper water bath but filled containers for the refrigerator and freezer.

The most time consuming part was separating every grape from its tiny little stem–thank goodness my grapes were seedless — so I set aside about four cups to use whole, and cooked the rest of the grapes separately to strain. I might have zero patience but I’m clever!

At the last minute I decided to add ginger and cinnamon. Those two ingredients elevated the flavor more than I could have imagined.

I lost the identification tag, so I don’t know exactly what type of grape I have, but they’re seedless and very sweet. This was only half of the grapes I used.

I cooked them in two pots, added the sugar equally along with ginger and cinnamon, and skimmed off the white foam:

Strained the one pot of grapes that weren’t cleaned as diligently…

After that, I combined both pots of grapes, added the blueberry juice and pectin, let it come to a rolling boil for another minute, and the mixture was ready to fill freshly sterilized containers. I wasn’t going to use pectin because I thought there was enough natural pectin, but I had some and it’s vegan, so I added it.

Disaster! I’m sure most people are smarter than me and wouldn’t fill plastic containers with boiling liquid. Life lessons, right? I licked a bit off the counter and it’s DELICIOUS. Don’t you think that container reminds you of Picasso’s melting clocks? I do! Such a mess.

Much better!

I had to hurry and sterilize a lot of glass jars and didn’t have time to scrape off the labels, but they’re clean and bacteria-free. After cooling, it jelled beautifully. I’m very happy with the results!

Here’s the recipe I created.

The Compleat Apple Pie…Deconstructed

Re-posting from a few years ago, one of my faves.

Your apple pie tutorial.
An apple pie with attitude.

If you are one of the many boys and girls (OK, adults) who’ve never made an apple pie from scratch and you don’t want to meet the Grim Reaper without having made at least one perfect apple pie, you’ve come to the right place.

I’m right here, holding your hand, gently walking you through all the steps and twists and turns to create the best apple pie you will ever eat. Guaranteed.

I know you can do it! Once you’ve mastered one pie start to finish, you will never be afraid of a little old piecrust again. Pinky swear.

The Apples
The apples you choose are of the utmost importance. They need to be firm and tart and able to stand up to the heat of a 425 degree oven without becoming mushy as the pie bakes. (For my Canandian friends, you’ll have to do the conversion–I’m not that smart.)

I like Granny Smith or Pippin apples for pies. Normally, that would be the green ones. Depending on the size of the apple, I like to use between 6-8 apples per pie.

apple1I enjoy making my pies the old fashioned way. I peel and slice the apples.

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Squeeze a little lemon juice over the slices for a pop of flavor and it’ll help keep the apples from turning brown.
apple3Unless I’m making apple jelly, I put the peels in the compost bin, and so should you!

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This is one time when I use white sugar and don’t feel guilty about it–about 2/3 cup or to taste. Some apples need more sweetness, some need less. The most important ingredient is cinnamon. The right amount of cinnamon elevates the apple pie to a higher level.  I use approximately 3-4 tablespoons. I do a lot of tasting, so it’s a good idea to add a little at a time and taste as you go. My family loves a LOT of cinnamon!

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When you feel that your apples and sugar and cinnamon have reached the zenith of blissful co-existence, sprinkle one tablespoon all-purpose flour over the apples and mix lightly.

stressed is dessert spelled backwardsDon’t be afraid, don’t desert me before the dessert is complete–watch and learn!

It’s not that difficult. It’s like many things in life. Once you try something new and master it, you lose the fear of the unknown.apple8

I like my mom’s favorite cookbook for old-fashioned recipes.

The Crust
It’s not rocket science. This is a tried and true basic recipe for a two-crust pie. I don’t like to use butter in this crust because I don’t want any other flavors to taint the apple+cinnamon perfection. I know you can use a food processor and it cuts the time in half but sometimes the most satisfying part of baking is to be fully immersed in the process as much as the final results!

For a nine-inch pie pan:
Mix together…
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons salt
Cut in…
2/3 cup shortening
Sprinkle with…
Four tablespoons water

What does “cut in” mean? It means you need to distribute the shortening into the flour so that the particles become the size of peas. This is what makes pastry flaky. pastry-blenderUse a pastry blender to cut shortening into flour. If you don’t have one, use two knives and this technique: holding a knife in each hand with blades almost touching, move knives back and forth in opposite directions in a parallel cutting motion. The side of a fork or a wire whisk works, too.

apple11 Mix only until all ingredients are worked in. If you overwork pastry dough, it’ll become tough. Sprinkle the water in a tablespoon at a time, mixing lightly with a fork until all the flour is moistened. Gather dough together and press into two balls for the upper and bottom crust.apple12

Flour the board or counter and the rolling pin so the dough won’t stick. There are all kinds of fancy schmancy rolling pins–I’ve been really happy with this old wooden one. Flatten the balls with your hand. Roll each ball into a sort of circle; don’t go all crazy thinking it has to be perfect at this point. If it breaks or tears, just pinch and push it back together–about 1/8 inch thick. For an apple pie, I think the bottom crust needs to be a bit more sturdy than the top crust–roll accordingly.

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Roll into a circle two inches larger than pie plate. Fold pastry into fourths; place in pie plate. Unfold and ease into plate, pressing firmly against bottom and sides.

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Pile high with the yummy apples.

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Redo the same steps with the other round for the top crust. Cut off the extra dough that hangs over–leaving enough to fold under.

You can either crimp the edges…piecrustedges

or use a fork. Dip fork tines in flour; press tines onto edge of dough. Poke with fork or knife all around to release steam as it bakes.apple18

I wanted to add an enchanted seashell embellishment to the final version.

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I molded leftover dough over a scallop shell, cut off the excess, and placed it on the pie.

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It will bake quicker than the pie–remember to take it out after about ten minutes and place it back on the pie before serving.

I always bake pies on a cookie sheet because they will invariably ooze and turn your oven into a burning, sticky, smoky mess that can set off a smoke alarm and that’s always annoying!apple19

Bake at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes or so until it’s bubbly and the crust is beautifully browned.

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Yummy!

apple21“Alright Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up”
(Norma Desmond, Sunset Blvd.)

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Come on, add this to your list of goals for 2013 and let me know how it turns out!

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Happy Valentine’s Day | For Chocolate Lovers | Vegan Lentil Brownies

I’ve had a bit of success with Black Bean & Beet Brownies and Lentil Cookies but I’ve never tried simply Lentil Brownies, so I baked some this morning before it got too hot to have the oven on.

They look good, right? But the real question is how do they taste?

If you’ve ever had Black Bean Brownies, you might have detected a slightly weird beany texture, so I hoped this lentil version would eliminate that.

These brownies are TRULY surprisingly yummy! They’re very moist and chocolate-y. I can’t tell they contain lentils, which IS a wonderful source of protein, so this is also a healthy snack.

Tips:
1. Really cook the lentils until they’re mushy.
2. Refrigerate the pan for at least a couple hours after frosting before cutting and eating.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Seriously Amazing *Vegan* Herb Crackers

Since we’re in a seemingly neverending spiral of virus mutations, the unvaccinated, and overworked healthcare professionals, I’m still trying to limit my exposure to PEOPLE. Not that it’s too difficult for me as I’m solitary by nature, but it’s still kind of annoying.

I had done my Traders shopping and when I came home, I realized that I had totally forgotten to get the kind of crackers I love to accompany Miyoko’s vegan cream cheese. Read about my love for THAT here: https://enchantedseashells.com/2021/04/06/yum-miyokos-vegan-cream-cheese/

Instead of doing what was normal practice in the old days, I didn’t run out and make that one purchase. Resourceful me decided to bake my own crackers. I haven’t done that in years and it’s so easy, I wonder why it took me this long to remember that! An added plus is no wasted plastic or containers, so I’m helping the environment too…

Tips: I substituted 1/2 cup buckwheat flour for all purpose flour. Next time I won’t do that because buckwheat is such a strong flavor. While it’s lovely in pancakes and soba noodles, it’s a bit too much here.

On the other hand, I gotta say that the smell of the herbs in the oven was so fragrant! It perfumed the entire house. I used all the herbs I have in the garden, but you can add whatever you like, including poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds. **Roll extremely thin for crispiest crackers. I didn’t cut them in perfect shapes or use a pizza cutter because I was too lazy and wanted them done in a hurry, but I kind of like the rustic look.

Ginger-Lime Quick Bread **Vegan**

All that rain we had yesterday made it literally impossible NOT to bake, so I did.

We had about 1 1/2 inches of rain and our strongest winds were 45+ mph. Stores closed in our little village because of power outages and streets were flooded.

My friend’s lime tree exploded with limes last week, so now I have about fifty limes as a result of her generosity. I juiced A LOT OF THEM and froze in ice cube trays. These are the juicy sweet Mexican limes that are so amazing in margaritas and guacamole. LImes + tequila = heaven.

I created this recipe after reading tons of similar ones on the internet.

After the worst of the storm passed, it was still windy but FREEZING. A hot mug of fragrant ginger tea was just what I needed along with a couple slices of yummy Ginger-Lime bread.

It came out soo moist and tender, I definitely recommend and will make again and again.

PS I can’t change the recipe graphic but I forgot the amount of ginger tea. Should read 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup.

Home is Where the Heat ISN’T

More shenanigans from the universe.

I planned to make a gigantic batch of oatmeal raisin cookies so the little people would never feel the disappointment of an empty cookie jar.

I’m on schedule with freshly made mango black cherry ice cream (a flavor request) chilling in the freezer.

Everything was going according to plan until I turned on the oven to preheat and nothing happened.

No heat, no nothing. The panel showed that it was on and preheating, but there was no heat.

UH OH. Those cookies aren’t going to bake themselves.

I was stuck with a batch of cookies all ready to go on two baking sheets with the rest of the mixture in the refrigerator waiting their turn, along with a batch of granola for my son.

I WAS IN PANIC MODE.

NOTNOWNOTNOWNOTNOWNOTNOW

No oven means no baking, no pizza, no lasagna–and that totally stresses me out because this grandma loves nothing more than to watch my kids and grandkids eat the food I lovingly prepare.

It’s a win-win for all of us!

I ran next door to my very very nice neighbors who fired up their oven so I could bake the cookies, (for the price of a few for them to eat, which is a fair exchange, an easy quid pro quo).

The cookies baked just fine, but the granola burned to a crisp. OMG, that’s never happened before.

The oven repairman is coming tomorrow and hopefully it’s not a major issue, but I have no idea what’s wrong.

Dear Universe,
Why? Why now?

Best Ever #Vegan Snickerdoodles

I had a hankering for some old fashioned Snickerdoodles just like I used to bake with my mom, only vegan this time.

I’ve been asked, so to clarify…yes, this is my pic I took of the just-baked Snickerdoodles, not a random Google photo.

I realize that a majority of my recipes are zero sugar and include all forms of kale and tofu and lentils; healthy and organic for the Angels, but they’re not here right now and I have truly eaten enough kale to last several lifetimes, haha.

I developed this recipe after doing tons of online research. The internet offers dozens of variations; some recipes include flax seeds, coconut sugar, and spelt/oat/amaranth/chickpea flours (including gluten free)–but I prefer to keep things simple.

My philosophy is that more people might want to try a vegan lifestyle if it’s not too complicated. At least at first, and then as one delves deeper into cruelty-free living, it’s fun to experiment with more exotic ingredients.

Gather ingredients; Cream of Tartar is the key to snickerdoodle’s unique flavor. I know it’s against all the rules to use Crisco shortening, but once in a while is OK, and it’s awesome for cookie texture.

I didn’t think anything could be better than my Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies, but I was blissfully happy with the results of these crackly, chewy, intensely cinnamon-y full moon shaped pillows of satisfying spicy sweetness. (But not too sweet.)

If you have patience, let them cool for about ten minutes before eating, but if you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to wait. I hope you try them and let me know your results.

My friend is going to drop off a bottle of imported vanilla so I’ll make them again, but I might still use the maple syrup because the maple flavor really enhanced the spicy cinnamon profile.

Caution: I go HEAVY on the cinnamon because I love it so much. If you don’t, adjust the amount to be mindful of your own tastebuds.

The BEST Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have a friend who keeps bugging me to bake something so I decided to develop a vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe.

My favorite kind of chocolate chip cookie is one that is 90% chocolate chips bound together by as little cookie dough as possible. The cookie dough is merely a vehicle to transport as many chips in my mouth as possible.

I think I achieved that today with this vegan recipe.

Assemble all ingredients first, this really saves time. I ran out of sea salt, so I had to use this kind…You could use coconut oil instead of veggie oil, but you’d have to melt it first, and I’m allergic to coconut and don’t really like it anyway. Another option is to use shortening or vegan butter, which is more traditional, and then it would be necessary to first cream the butter with the sugars.

(Recipe below with a cool Canva template.)

Combine sugars and wet ingredients.

Add dry ingredients and chips. Of course you can add fewer chocolate chips if you choose, or add nuts.

Cooling on the rack. I can’t wait to try them!

YUMMY. Crispy on the outside, chewy and sublimely chocolatey all the way around. Pretty much the PERFECT vegan chocolate chip cookie!

[pah-tay-toe] Confessions

“GRANDMA ATE ALL OF THE POTATOES!”

I don’t care how you pronounce it, but I need to share my secret love for potatoes and there’s a recipe at the end.

Specifically, the much maligned WHITE potato: simple, sturdy, earthy.

On the last day of my most recent visit to the Angels, sadly, a very long time ago, DIL thoughtfully made a special going home dinner for me, all from scratch by the way, which made it even more wonderful.

There was vegan lasagna with a side of roasted potatoes and apple crumble. The lasagna was made with chard and kale from the garden and was SO VERY YUMMY and healthy.

Apparently (and rightly so) she thought I didn’t eat white potatoes because for the longest time, I would scowl at anything white: white rice, white flour, white sugar, white potatoes–as the source of empty calories, zero nutrition, and a great friend of diabetes. Not too healthy.

From the oven there emanated a most delicious perfume. I asked DIL what I was smelling and she said, “It’s roasted potatoes but you don’t have to eat them. I know you don’t like white potatoes.”

Not so fast, DIL.

I want to not like them, but I’m addicted to French fries (has anyone ever seen me hoard them? It’s not a pretty sight.) I actually dearly love white potatoes, but I try NOT to eat them and have some semblance of self control, like I say I don’t eat chocolate, only because I have no off switch. Once I start eating chocolate, I can’t stop. I don’t ever have any around because of my lack of restraint, which is also the reason why I buy Halloween candy like Skittles and other stuff I don’t like so I won’t be tempted.

OK, enough of the sidebar; back to the story of the roast potatoes.

Dinner was ready and we were setting the table. I was actually STARVING and had most likely once again forgotten to eat for the entire day.

DIL handed me a bowl of roasted potatoes and before they even reached the dining room table, I had eaten EVERY SINGLE ONE.

I brought the empty bowl into the kitchen and asked DIL where I could get seconds. She took one look at me and the empty bowl and started laughing.

“That was a sharing bowl! Did you eat all of them?”

“Well, yes, oops, sorry! I didn’t know they were for sharing!”

“T, Grandma ate ALL the potatoes!”

“YOU DID? HEY DAD, GRANDMA ATE ALL THE POTATOES IN THE SHARING BOWL! SHE REALLY DID!”

I hadn’t tasted anything so delicious in FOREVER; OMG they were so good, I’ve been thinking about them ever since I came home.

And by the way, I had never heard of the term “sharing bowl” before that day. It must be a British thing, as DIL is from the UK.

I finally broke down and bought two WHITE IDAHO potatoes and since it’s a bit rainy today and not devil hot, I’ll attempt a recreation of DILs heavenly dish. I’m even going to add salt and that’s also something I rarely do.

They tasted pretty yummy, but to be honest, not quite as good as DILs, but maybe that’s because it’s such a treat for me to have someone else cook, ‘cos I usually have that job.

I’m not sharing these, either!

BEST Vegan Chocolate Cookies

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They really are!!!

For no other reason than I felt like a personal challenge, I went for about two weeks without eating ANY sugar.

No cookies, no cake, no pie, nothing sweet at all.

But last night, I had had enough. Even though I didn’t experience any withdrawals or anything, I felt like if I didn’t eat some chocolate, I’d lose my mind.

I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store ‘cos I think it’s fun to experiment with ingredients on hand–and this is what I created.

I’m happy to report that they’re absolutely delicious! The cookies puffed up and then became all crackly just like I hoped they would, so satisfying with a cuppa. Crisp and chewy. YUM.

P.S. These is a a perfect basic recipe. Add whatever you want: chocolate chips, nuts, coconut, chia/flax seeds.

Best Vegan Chocolate Cookies

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coffee or a non-dairy beverage of choice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix oil, sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, and liquid. Add all the dry ingredients and combine to make a pliable dough. If it’s a little dry, add a bit more liquid.

Roll dough into walnut-sized balls and place on two parchment lined baking sheets. Flatten slightly with fork.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.